A major bid to make Galway the leading Smart Travel location in the country by the Galway City Council and Galway County Council could see car use reduced dramatically over the next five years and see a major rise in cycling, walking, and the use of public transport.
For all this to become a reality, an ambitious plan, which the local authorities have assembled, must be approved for Government funding.
The city and county councils’ joint submission to the Government’s Smarter Travel National Competition, which seeks to achieve sustainable transport systems and practices for Ireland, has reached the second stage.
Originally 39 applications were made for the funding for a share of the €50 million fund the Government is offering. These have now been whittled down to 11 of which the Galway bid is one.
Feedback from the Department of Transport on the city and county councils’ Stage One bid highlighted that it was “excellent” and “one of the few bids where all members of the adjudication panel agreed that it should proceed to stage II”.
The stage II bid seeks to secure funding of €25 million for the Galway Metropolitan Area (Galway city, Bearna, Oranmore, and Baile Chlair ). The bid outlines an ambitious plan for the city including major infrastructural works, plans, and programmes aimed at increasing the numbers of walkers, cyclists, and public transport users.
The completed bid must be submitted by April 30. If this bid is successful it will reach the final stage of four and stand in good stead of securing all or a majority of the funding being sought.
The plan proposes to increase the pedestrian areas of Galway city into Cross Street, Middle Street, and Eglinton Street. The proposal came from consultations which took place before Christmas and the council will be meeting with retailers, councillors, the Chamber of Commerce, etc, to gain further points of view and suggestions on this idea.
According to Cathy Joyce of the Galway Transportation Unit the idea has already been “very well received” in meetings held so far with the Galway City Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce.
A major thrust of the bid is to reduce car use by 15 per cent by 2014 and encourage cycling, walking, and the use of public transport. As a result it is proposed to reduce speed limits in the city centre to 30kph.
“There is a need to look at the safety of all road users, not just drivers,” said Joe Tansey, head of the Galway Transportation Unit. “Cyclists and pedestrians will see this as vital to promoting cycling and walking, and reducing speeds will protect more vulnerable road users. Speeding drivers are a deterrent to pedestrians and to parents letting children cycle to school.”
Other proposals to reduce car use include a six fold increase in the length of bus corridors from 3km to 18km, to serve Knocknacarra, Parkmore, Oranmore, Monivea Road and the Tuam Road; and the development of a new walking and cycling route from Newtownsmith to the Docks via Abbeygate Street.
To encourage cycling, the plan seeks the development of high quality cycle routes from the city centre to Bearna, Dangan, Baile-Chlair, and Oranmore. It also proposes two new bike training parks in the east and west of the city.
According to Mr Tansey, the parks will be a kind of road safety training park for cyclists. While all cyclists will be welcome to use the facilities, they will be primarily aimed at young cyclists and families as well as new adult cyclists who may be nervous of the roads. The park will be a mock-up streetscape with various obstacles, and a volunteer instructor will be on-hand to give advice and training.
A total of four new bridges have been proposed. Two will be pedestrian bridges - one over the old Clifden-Galway railway on the River Corrib and another from the Cathedral to Bowling Green.
A key part of the plan will be the development of a multi-modal transport hub in Garraun, Oranmore, which will include park and ride facilities, a rail station, and cycling and walking felicities. The scheme will also provide local employment.
For such a plan to be successful the public need to see the local authorities deliver on their promises. Correspondingly the public to come on board and be willing to adopt new ways of getting around the city that do not exclusively involve the car.
As a result the bid proposes a new ‘sustainable travel’ PR programme and the roll out of workplace mobility plans, which will involve City Hall working with businesses which employ more than 100 people and focusing on prioritising cycling and walking to work, car pooling, and using public transport.
The council also intends to develop a new personalised travel planning programme to be piloted in Renmore. This will see City Hall discussing with the Renmore population the ways in which local people travel to work, school, and leisure activities, and seeing how car use can be reduced in this.
“We’re all creatures of habit,” said Mr Tansey. “We want to make people aware of the options that are out there. It gives people the chance to do something new and find something that might suit them.”
Fianna Fáil councillor and chairman of the Integrated Transportation Coordinating Group Michael J Crowe said the bid “is a very comprehensive plan” and will need “widespread support” for it to succeed, and he is calling on the public, councillors, and various interested groups to get behind it.
“We have stiff opposition from Cork, Limerick, and parts of Dublin city, among others,” he said. “As well as trying to secure €25 million, advancing the necessary infrastructural changes, and promoting the benefits, etc, we also need to change the public’s hearts and minds. It is an uphill challenge but one I believe is achievable.”
The Galway Metropolitan Area Stage II bid will bew assessed by reference to its level of ambition, designs, behavioural change campaigns, and the ability of the city and country councils to deliver on their plans.
“We are entering this on a high note but what will make the difference to actually securing the funding is the